Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be the keynote speaker at Judson University's fourth annual World Leaders Forum March 19, the university announced Friday.
Rice, the first black woman to serve as Secretary of State, will speak about global leadership at a community event on the university's Elgin campus and at a VIP reception later that night in Chicago.
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She joins a list of prominent heads of state who headlined the World Leaders Forum in its first three years -- former President George W. Bush, former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The announcement was made before a gathering of Judson University students, faculty and staff at the university's Herrick Chapel, the site of the World Leaders Forum.
Judson senior Cassie Criminger of Flanagan, Ill., said she's glad to see a female leader of Rice's stature be picked as the speaker for next year's forum.
"Especially seeing a woman in this type of leadership position, makes me feel more inspired, more encouraged that you could do these types of things," said the 21-year-old visual communications major.
Criminger said she grew up watching Rice on the news and seeing her deal with global events.
"She has always seemed very collected and calm. She seems well articulated ... strong, independent," she said. "You hear about them growing up and you see them do the things they are doing ... when you see them in person you realize, deep down they are just ordinary people."
Judson President Gene Crume said the university is honored to welcome an "innovative leader with a unique global perspective."
"Dr. Rice was at the top of our wish list, and we look forward to learning from her incredible perspective next March," he said in a news release.
Rice also was the first woman to serve as assistant to the president for national security affairs for the Bush administration from 2001 to 2005. She has written two best-selling books, "No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington," and "Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family." She now teaches political science at Stanford University in California.
The goal of the World Leaders Forum is to offer Judson students and area professionals a chance to hear from inspiring speakers who have a global impact, Crume said in a telephone interview.
Judson students, alumni and the larger community, including elected officials in the Elgin area and the university's philanthropic sponsors, were involved in selecting the speaker for the 2014 forum, he added.
"We put about five names on the list ... without a doubt Condoleezza Rice was our lead person," Crume said.
The forum has been sold out in each of the past three years, and Crume expects the same with Rice.
Crume said Rice adds to the richness of ideas presented at the forums.
"When you just look at the diversity of their perspectives, and their backgrounds ... there's wonderful diverse aspects about all four speakers," he said. "Condoleezza Rice really deepens that aspect of diversity that we didn't have before."
The forum and the caliber of speakers sets Judson apart from other universities and colleges in the area, he added.
"That's why this forum is so important ... how frequently does Tony Blair come to Elgin?" Crume said. "It complements having a world class symphony orchestra. It complements all of the great things going on."
The city of Elgin is a partner and strong supporter of the forum.
"The World Leaders Forum is a wonderful event that is a perfect fit for our community," Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain said in a news release. "Elgin is home to many corporations with international presences, so this global event impeccably complements the business climate in our community."
Funds raised from the forum go toward scholarships for current Judson students and an endowment to start an Entrepreneurial Studies program at the university.
The community event featuring Rice begins at 3 p.m. at the Judson's Herrick Chapel, 1151 N. State St., followed by the VIP reception at the Hilton in downtown Chicago at 720 S. Michigan Ave. Rice's presentations will be followed by question and answer sessions.
Tickets to the VIP event are available to the public. Judson students, faculty, staff and alumni will be given first priority for the community event since seating is limited. The public will be able to purchase tickets starting Jan. 1. For ticketing and sponsorship information, visit WorldLeadersForum.info.